Oneing.... Prayer and Unlearning
The truth is that, mostly, we have all learned the wrong things.
- We have learned that God is angry and full of wrath because we are full of sin and evil.
- that this is what Jesus taught
- that this is the Gospel that the Church preaches
And of course plenty of Christians have believed and taught things like these because such ideas are a part of the Christian story. But they are only a part of it and need to be understood as elements of a much bigger story and a much larger picture.
When we listen to the great mystical Saints like Julian of Norwich or William Law, or go back to the theologians in the first thousand years of the Christian story, we discover a deeper truth. The Gospel does not belong to the noisiest preachers and the most superficial thinkers.
In fact if we read scripture in such a way that "one part is not repugnant to another" (as Article 20 of the 39 Articles of the Church of England bids us do) we discover that this angry, judgemental, condemnatory God is not the message of the Bible either.
It's not just immature religion, but also the world around us, that tells us we're not good enough, that only the winners that matter and no one remembers who came second. Or we are told just the opposite- that we are the special ones and deserve the best. Both those extremes are unhealthy and untrue. We are neither second best nor entitled to special treatment. In fact we find our maturity in joyfully embracing our ordinariness as we take our place in the universe.
Jesus lived in a world where religion and society said all those unhealthy things, two thousand years ago.
And that's why he was the freest human being that ever walked the earth.
Jesus referred to himself as the Son of God just 3 times in the Gospel record. But 73 times he called himself "the Son of Man". In the original Aramaic language it's a phrase that simply means "someone like us". Imagine... God becomes a human being and identifies himself as someone like us! Jesus was far more interested in telling us he was one of us, truly human and 'oned' with us than he was in getting us to believe he was God. That was, after all, the easy bit.
Martin Niemöller, the famous German pastor who spent 8 years imprisoned in concentration camps during the Second World War is quoted as saying, "Jesus Christ is human, we are not". That's a stark and arresting thought, but it takes us to the very heart of what Jesus was all about: enabling us to become what we were to be - gloriously human! And that means we need to find our very lives in Christ.
Because of Jesus Christ we too can be free to live in exactly that same freedom: the glorious freedom of the children of God (Romans 8.21) which we will share with the whole of creation. Jesus Christ is one with us so that we can be one in him.
But to really understand we must unlearn not everything, but a great deal of the stuff, we thought we were 'suppose to believe'. It's not just a head exercise, or even a head and heart exercise (although it is both those things) - it is really much, much more about growing our souls.
That is why it is open to every human being, no matter what their mental or physical abilities may be.
It is open to anyone and everyone who can love.
Julian of Norwich called this way of living, being one with God, or to use her word, being oned with God.
The Christians of the first millennium, and still the Orthodox and oriental Churches, speak of this as theosis or divinization.
In the Anglican tradition the Elizabethan theologian Richard Hooker called this participation. Other saints and traditions have called it by other names.
Oneing, divinization, participation, are ideas that point us to the truth that our real self, our deepest reality, is our dwelling in God and God dwelling in us.
We are soul, and our soul is that which God loves.
That’s all we really need to know.
(I'm not saying that soul is all that God loves!)
To understand this, to live this, means unlearning much - though, again, certainly not all - of what we have been taught by religion and by life.